Do You Puff or Pass?

1 October 2009 By Janine Ketterer

Seventy percent of yacht crew do NOT smoke, according to the recent poll on Does this number surprise you?

After the "Second-Hand Smoking on the Job" hot topic (posted September 14) generated quite a bit of discussion – and ruffled a few feathers – we posted a poll to find out just what percentage of crew smoke, what you think about your crewmates smoking and what the rules are about smoking on your boat.

Only 30 percent of crew polled said that they smoke cigarettes. This number seemed small in comparison to all the yachties seen puffing at various crew parties. It turns out that smoking and labeling yourself as a smoker are two different things. When asked if he smoked, Deckhand Brock of M/Y Antares said no. But when asked if he ever smokes his answer changed, “I only smoke when I’m out. But I don’t consider myself a smoker. No one wants to admit that they smoke.”

Engineer Justin of M/Y Avante does not smoke, but says, “It really depends on what you consider a smoker. I’ll smoke a cigar three or four times a year.”

Capt. Clive of M/Y Mirgab V was surprised with the poll results, but says, “You’ll find that a lot of yachties actually do smoke, but they tell the captain that they don’t. I don’t smoke and I think it’s a disgusting habit. It’s well known that the industry does not like smokers, that’s why you see people sneak off to the bushes to do it.”

In the poll, of those who answered that they do indeed smoke, the majority said they have had their habit for five to 20 years and had smoked prior to joining the yachting industry. Deckhand Brock admitted that he picked up his “social smoking” habit before he was a yachtie.

Answers ranged across the board as to why people picked up the habit in the first place, but peer pressure topped out as the main culprit.

Smoking tends to be a polarizing topic. People either defend one’s right to the habit vehemently or are disgusted with it and all who raise cigarettes to their lips. The question, “Does it bother you if you crewmates smoke,” was met with interesting responses. Thirty-six percent of those who answered our poll said yes.

Engineer Justin says, “The cigarettes themselves don’t bother me. It’s the fact that every two hours crew who smoke go down to the dock for fifteen minutes at a time to take a smoke break while I’m still working.”

Capt. Clive agrees. “Those little breaks all add up and in the end when crew want to take their leave it’s like, you’ve already taken it with all of your smoke breaks added together.”

However, there are many who defend smokers. member Ash posted to the “Second-Hand Smoking on the Job” hot topic,  “I recently quit after fourteen years and now I socially smoke, yes that’s right socially. If you don’t like the environment you work in and this is where it gets tricky...quit!” Member SBC agreed. “Smoking is dangerous! Drinking is dangerous! Driving fast is dangerous! … Living on the edge is what makes life such fun! … And if you do not wish to partake in these activities, then don’t. But please, don’t tell everyone else how to live their lives.”

But when you’re working on a vessel that belongs to someone else, ultimately it’s not your decision whether you can smoke on it or not. Most yachts have a policy about smoking.

Eighteen percent of crew said their boat has a “no smoking at all” policy, 27 percent said crew may smoke but not on board, 29 percent said crew may smoke on board but only in designated areas on deck, four percent said they may smoke on board when guests or owners are not aboard and 22 percent said their vessel does not have a smoking policy.

On M/Y Mirgab V, Capt. Clive does not allow crew to smoke at all on board. “Guests may smoke outside if they wish, but I prefer they didn’t either. I really don’t like to hire crew who smoke at all. They come into the crew mess and they smell; it just looks very unprofessional. My crew are not allowed to smoke in their uniforms.” member Capt. Dughall shares the same opinion as Capt. Clive. He commented to the poll, “I run a non-smoking boat and only employ non-smoking crew. I do not like it, never have done and refuse to work alongside people who smell of smoke even if they go off the boat to have a smoke. It is bad enough crew coming back smelling of smoke when they have been in a smoky atmosphere, but luckily most countries are now banning smoking inside public places. If you smoke, go and find a yacht that tolerates it, there are plenty around.”

While opinions on smoking are strong on both fronts, it seems for the time being that it will continue to be a part of our society and our industry.

But another question has arisen: does social smoking make you a smoker? If so, these poll results could be quite different. What do you think?